At GoSquared, we are focused on shipping great features and updates to customers – it’s the heartbeat of the whole company.
If we go too long without pushing changes to our customers we might as well be dead – the longer we go without changing things the longer we go without learning from, and improving for our customers.
We’ve experimented a lot with tooling over the years, and this is by no means just a tooling problem. But here’s 5 tools we really like that help us move faster as a product team.
Admittedly, we haven’t been using Codetree for long, but so far we’ve been loving it.
We’ve gotten a new sense of “Just Do It” across the team since using Codetree. There’s something very actionable about a GitHub issue assigned to you that is visible to the whole team.
Codetree is essentially a lightweight layer on top of GitHub Issues that brings all your issues from all your repos together in one place. It enables you to manage labels and milestones at an organisation level ensuring consistency across the team and and all the different projects you manage.
Codetree also makes it easier to file issues, too. We encourage everyone on the team to report any issues they see immediately, so we can fix them as soon as possible. But finding which repo to file an issue on can be a tricky decision (we have 150+ repos at GoSquared and that number is only going up). Often we’ve found issues haven’t been filed because someone wasn’t sure which repo to file it on and then never got round to asking. Codetree helps avoid this by having one “Create Issue” button and then a simple drop down to choose the repo. You still have to choose, but it’s more trivial if you pick the wrong item in the drop down list.
We do a daily standup to ensure everyone is in the loop, but one of the weaknesses of the standup is it makes it really hard to follow along with progress if anyone is out of the office. It’s also really handy having a written record of when things were worked on to look back on when needed.
HeyUpdate is a great little tool that hooks into Slack which makes it easy for everyone to write down in one line snippets what they’ve done as the day progresses. At the start of every day, HeyUpdate puts a message in our main Slack channel listing out everything everyone worked on the previous day.
What’s neat is HeyUpdate integrates with a bunch of tools we use across the team. On the growth side, all the emails and calls we make with Close.io are noted in HeyUpdate automatically. Every commit on GitHub is automatically noted, and also every calendar appointment, so it’s easy to see what is taking everyone’s time without a huge amount of extra input.
Everyone knows Trello so there’s not much point going into detail about what Trello is. But how we use Trello has certainly evolved over the last year.
We used to use Trello for everything – and I mean everything. Heck, we even used it as a CRM to manage our sales pipeline and some customers conversations at one point. We’ve scaled back our use of Trello over time as other tools have done a better job at specific tasks.
We now use Trello only for the high level planning of which projects we’ll be tackling in the quarter. We call it “Birds Eye View” and it’s essentially a zoomed out look at whether we’re on track to get everything done in the quarter that we set out to achieve at the start.
One of the issues we always suffered from with Trello was that everyone would have a different way of using Trello. Some people would pick boards for what others would create a card. Some would make a checklist on a card while others would create 5 cards in a single board for the same thing. Trello is an amazingly flexible and versatile tool, and that’s both its greatest asset and its downfall for us. Now we have scaled back out use of Trello, everyone has a much clearer understanding of how to use it, and we ultimately get a lot more value from it now.
We use GitHub for a lot. But one of our favourite uses is as our team wiki. We actually don’t use GitHub’s Wiki feature, we simply have a repo that everyone has access to, called “Docs”. It’s where everyone’s notes go on just about everything that happens in the company.
We file notes on every meeting we have – both internal and external.
We write brief specs up before we embark on a project so everyone is aligned on what the intended outcome is.
We also have a folder called “Playbooks” which has saved us countless hours. For any tasks we manually do more than ~5 times, we write up the steps taken into a playbook. This means anyone on the team can also take over the task should that person be away, and it also comes in handy to remind ourselves of how to do certain tasks when we haven’t done them for a while. We have playbooks for everything – from dealing with enterprise sales enquiries to printing tshirts to organising parties.
Have you heard of Slack? Oh, right, yes of course you have.
Slack seems to be more popular than sliced bread ever was with teams around the world. I won’t waste time explaining what Slack is, and you can even read about how we switched over to Slack in the early days here.
But how does Slack help us get more things done as a team? It cuts out a lot of time switching between tools. We use a lot of channels that each have very specific purposes.
Pretty much all the tools mentioned here hook into Slack – our interface for posting updates to HeyUpdate is with their “/HeyUpdate” command in Slack. All issues get sent into our #bugs channel in Slack – let’s just say it’s not the quietest of all the channels we have.
All these interrelations mean that across the team, we have less stuff to worry about – fewer apps for each of the team to have installed on their phones, fewer logins to have to remember every day, and fewer browser tabs open while in the office.
Bonus – Clear
Clear isn’t universally used across the team. Some of the team are Android users (gasp), but those of us who do use it find it’s a great way to put down quick and tiny non-product tasks that otherwise often get forgotten.
Clear is a beautifully simply app by the folks at Realmac (also makers of RapidWeaver), and it works great on all iOS devices and on OS X.
Clear lacks team sharing features and almost all the usual features of a todo list or project management app, but that’s its beauty – it’s just so damn simple.
Clear is there when you need it, and out of the way and gone when you don’t. You’ll learn the app in minutes and won’t need to read a training manual to get up to speed.
Fewer but better tools
Hopefully this list of tools to get stuff done is helpful for enabling you to do more as a team. Using something internally that’s been a life saver? Let us know in the comments – we’d love to hear about it!